Jonah Sebring stole home for the go-ahead run in the ninth inning, and the UC Santa Barbara baseball team handed UC San Diego its first home conference loss of the season, taking the opening game of a three-game series at Triton Ballpark, 4-2.
Sebring atoned for his seventh-inning error by stealing home to put the Gauchos (23-12, 8-5 Big West) in front for good in the top of the ninth.
Matt Ager pitched six shutout innings for the Gauchos
His offense gave him the lead in the sixth. Zander Darby hit a lead-off single and Jared Sundstrom singled behind Darby. Broc Mortensen bunted the runners over to second and third. Christian Kirtley‘s groundout brought Darby home to break a 0-0 deadlock.
The Gauchos doubled their lead in the seventh, again starting the inning with back-to-back singles. A two-out wild pitch allowed Aaron Parker to score from third to make it 2-0.
Ager was back out to pitch the bottom of the seventh and walked the first batter he faced to end his evening. Carter Benbrook relieved the righty and walked his first batter to put himself in a tough spot. A sacrifice bunt gave the Tritons runners on second and third with just one out, and both those runners scored when Sebring mishandled a ground ball.
The Gauchos got out of the seventh with the game still tied, and it stayed that way in the eighth thanks to Parker. The catcher erased a one-out single by throwing out the runner trying to take second, then caught another base thief after a two-out double and an intentional walk, ending the inning.
Sebring led off the top of the ninth with a double, then took third on a dropped third strike to Parker. LeTrey McCollum was intentionally walked, but his speed on the basepaths drew the Tritons’ attention. When UC San Diego’s pitcher threw over to first, Sebring darted from third, beating the throw home by a good margin and putting Santa Barbara back in front, 3-2.
Later in the inning, McCollum advanced to third on a Corey Nunez single, then scored the Gauchos’ fourth run when Darby hustled down the line to break up a double play.
Tyler Bremner pitched the bottom of the ninth and worked around a lead-off walk to earn his second save of the season.
Nunez led UCSB at the plate Friday, going 2-for-4, the only Gaucho with multiple hits on the evening. Seven different UCSB batters recorded a hit in the game
UC San Diego is 22-13, 11-5 in the Big West.